Why human resources development is vital for organizational leadership

Organizations have become more aware of the need to seriously invest in their human resources as they experience constant change in many aspects of their businesses. Not surprisingly, the importance of education, training, and development in private and public sector organizations has come to the forefront, with commentators noting that without appropriately directed continuous learning strategies at both the organizational and individual levels, organizations will rapidly fall behind their competitors.

At the heart of this is a realization of the need to train and develop employees and ensure a clear link between their training and development and human resources development activities and the organization’s overall business strategy. Ultimately, the training and development that employees undertake must contribute to the organization’s present needs, but, increasingly, they should help build an organization that can look into the future.

Therefore, human resources development is all about planning for the business’s future needs and understanding that investment in human capital development activities will allow the organization to continue to innovate, grow, and prosper in an increasingly competitive and global environment.

At the heart of this is a realization of the need to train and develop employees and ensure a clear link between their training and development and human resources development activities and the organization’s overall business strategy

Ironically, while business executives and top management team members acknowledge that human resources development is vital for an organization’s survival, evidence shows that training and development are often considered less important than other business priorities. When times are financially tough for organizations and cuts are required, employee development activities are usually scaled down or eliminated.

Unconsciously, the initial conceptions of human resources development focused on training that helped individuals perform jobs effectively. However, recent developments have gone beyond a narrow concentration on training to include strategies and practices that focus on enhancing individual, teamwork, and organizational performance.

By extension, this establishes the fact that human resources development consists of a strong connection to business strategy, focusing on team learning and emphasizing internal consultancy, organizational learning, knowledge management, and the development of the intellectual capital of an organization. Hence, at the most fundamental level, human resources development needs to be integrated into business planning. Also, those involved in developing the workforce should illustrate how human resources development activities can contribute to its corporate goals and mission.

Integrating human resources development to an organization’s overall corporate strategy requires the support and active participation of the organization’s leadership in top management positions. Such support is vital for the success and advancement of human resources development activities. The support of the top management needs to be visible in their operational roles and their personal development. Hence, top management support should become top management leadership. In other words, all employees’ capacity development should be led, rather than supported, by senior management.

To earn such support, human resource professionals must demonstrate their strategic capability by helping strategic planners to acquire the conceptual, analytical, and interpersonal skills they require to perform their jobs. Again, human resource specialists need to understand contextual issues and provide information that can lead to effective senior management decision making about learning and development.

Further, there has been an increasing emphasis on the concept of learning in organizations in recent times. An everchanging business environment in terms of global competition and increased customer sophistication has focused organizations on developing a learning culture to gain a competitive advantage. This competitive advantage is based on the belief that it is people – human resources and not business capital that provides organizations with their competitive edge. This notion can be traced back to the idea that the extent to which individuals, organizations, industries, and countries effectively acquire and apply knowledge would become a key competitive factor.

With the correct learning environment, organizations can learn faster than the speed at which change occurs in their industry. However, a supportive and respectful environment is essential for learning. Organizations need to ensure that the psychological safety of their staff is protected. Psychological safety here means that the people believe that they can speak up without negative consequences to their job or career.

Organizations need an environment that does not interfere with employees’ psychological safety, which encourages risk-taking, open discussion on problems, creativity, and involvement. An open and error-tolerant learning environment needs to be established to have employees who are willing to acquire, transfer, and retain new knowledge. For this to happen, employee involvement is crucial.

Employees should be involved in the setting of learning objectives within the organization. These learning objectives should be aligned with the organization’s strategic goals so that the employees are committed to meeting organizational goals, thereby achieving learning objectives. Therefore, learning should be viewed as an asset to both the employees and the organization.

In conclusion, human resources development policies and practices play an important role in creating a learning culture and facilitating knowledge management within organizations. By recognizing both the facilitators of and potential barriers to learning in organizations, we can see how the human resources development functions can help organizations tap into the knowledge of their employees and use this as a competitive advantage.

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